Mali and Guinea both finished Group D in the African Cup of Nations with three points from three 1–1 draws to finish joint second behind the Ivory Coast. This brought about the cruelest and most perversely anticipated tiebreaker of all: the drawing of lots.
So a day after being unable to decide a winner on the pitch, representatives for Mali and Guinea met in a hotel conference room to decide which team would advance to face Ghana in the quarterfinals. It marked the first time since 1988 that advancement in the African Cup of Nations has been decided this way and while their fate was being decided in the most unsatisfying way possible, the Mali and Guinea players came together to pass the time with a game of cards.
Maliens et guinéens jouaient au carte ce matin , très belle image de sportivité et de Fraternité du foot africain pic.twitter.com/p1YucVWX1b
— MaliFootball.com (@malifootball) January 29, 2015
Translation: “Malians and Guineans played cards this morning, very beautiful image of sportsmanship and brotherhood in African football.”
According to the BBC, Mali football association president Boubacar Diarra was in tears when he selected the third-place ball first, allowing Guinea to advance by almost literally doing nothing.
And with the anti-climax complete, Mali’s players collected their things and went home, perhaps wishing that their informal card game had decided which team advances instead.